Sample Research Proposals
Ms. Mitzi McFarland
9 March 2009
Red Balloons Straining to Fly Free
Judith Fetterly, in The Resisting Reader, argues that male authors presumed for centuries their readers all were male. Describing phallocentric assumptions as “universal” (xii), Fetterly explores the ways in which patriarchal practices in literature penetrate the “consciousness” of female readers who must learn “to read like a man” to successfully navigate a masculine language community (which has its own codes and conventions). Because women were and are raised in a language system and literature that still presumes its authors and readers are male, Fetterly argues that they become psychologically “immasculated”—not “emasculated,” in the sense of having “maleness” taken away from them, but rather they learn to think and read and write like men (what she calls an “assenting” reader).
In The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros presents Esperanza in terms of what Judith Fetterley calls a “resisting reader” (4) who increasingly resists her social text through the development of the novel. However, even at the end of the text Cisneros makes it clear that Esperanza has not freed herself entirely from the confines of her immasculated universe, but as she has up to this point, she continually struggles against the grasp of this framework. As Esperanza grows up within her community, she observes women acting subservient to men. At times she and her friends even model this type of behavior amongst themselves and for others. But overall, as the story progresses and Esperanza matures, the reader witnesses her struggle more and more against the masculine/feminine stereotype that surrounds her. Like the red balloon in “Boys and Girls,” she rises above her surroundings as much as she is capable of doing and fights against the ideological anchor of patriarchy to which she is barely, but surely, tethered (9).
4 December 2008
Architecturally Constructing Ideology in The House on Mango Street
Many critics of Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street only implement traditional critical perspectives to analyze the home’s significance. Limited to Post-Colonial, Feminist, or other literary theories, analysts like Jacqueline Doyle diminish their insight by ignoring the link between every literary interpretation of the text: architecture. In a novella where a young girl, Esperanza, journeys to redefine her cultural identity through re-conceptualizing her domestic space, it seems bizarre that academic critics ignore architectural discourse in their analyses, especially considering architecture’s impact on literary criticism’s development. Michael Foucault, a founding theorist of Cultural Poetics, created his notion of “the other” by observing that “physical and social arenas outside of our daily life” most accurately portray the social order, and also “suspend, neutralize, or invert sets of relationships,” for example (as quoted by McLeod 16). The Greeks, founders of many modern literary and social ideologies, used the word oikeios or “own” as the adjectival form of the word oikos or “house,” equating the home to one’s “owness” or identity (Bergren 80). Indeed, the home and identity remain linked throughout the novella, as Esperanza struggles to find her literal and figurative place in the world.
Just as Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects constructed space to underscore or re-envision the racial or gender relationships within it, moreover, the novella’s protagonist, Esperanza, seemingly utilizes the home to challenge her patriarchal, Chicano culture, as she transforms the homes of her inner-city, Chicano neighborhood where “swollen doors” “open with a sigh” and “windows were so small you would think they were holding their breath” into a spacious “flat all [her] own.” Is the nature-based, spacious, Frank Lloyd Wright-esque home she purchases at the novella’s close evoking similar ideas of freedom through nature? Or is it a symbolic removal from the sexual confines of her previous Victorian-esque environment? Or, in contradiction of either interpretation, does her purchase of a spacious home allow her to “otherize” herself, as Foucault might suggest? These questions alone attest to the ways in which an architectural analysis of the text links various literary theories to uproot and enrich the connections between the complex psychological, social, and sexual facets of Chicago’s Chicano culture.
10, November, 2012
Distant, unreal, tainted, alien: when you look in the mirror, do you see yourself looking back? Before one can answer that question, she must first recognize what self is and define it. Developing self-identity, however, by virtue happens outside of the individual through encounters, experiences, location and society. In particular mirrors, in relation to young children, are the first instances in which they understand and recognize themselves. However, over time, through the media and social standards, those views in turn change as those same children are met with outside feedback. Richard W. Robins and Khali H. Trzesniewski in their work Self-Esteem Development across the Lifespan explain, “As children develop cognitively, they begin to base their self-evaluations on external feedback and social comparisons” (159).These external catalysts constantly reshape our mirror image, making us see someone different than ourselves when we look in the mirror. This concept of reflections is prominent in the movie Little Miss Sunshine. In the movie Michael Arndt satirically analyzes the impressionable effects of media and social influences on his characters’ self-reflections and uses mirrors to emphasize that point to the audience. Further still, Arndt primarily uses Olive and Dwayne in conjunction with mirrors as their perceptions of themselves are directly related to outside influences. Olive specifically is found many times throughout the movie examining herself in a mirror or through reflection—m Miss America Pageant on her glasses—as she struggles to find her sense of self against American beauty standards and patriarchal concepts of success.